Friday, October 25, 2013

the barn dance and grace

before i had even climbed out of my car, i could hear the music of their young voices.
as i came closer to the barn, there was no doubt a party was just inside.

light spilled from a couple of small windows up high.

laughter spilled from every weathered, white board.


this old barn held a hundred or so teens for a school dance. a little bit of country. a little bit of crazy. plaid shirts and cowboy boots and kids with a whole lot of foot stompin joy -- square dancing inside on the second floor.

i stopped to photograph the barn before going in ...before realizing i also had tears spilling unexpectedly. 

all this life contained. this wonderful, beautiful life ... just inside.

i was only a mama sneaking in to snatch a few pictures of my teens. they gave me permission. "sure mom, you can stop by and take some pictures." they didn't mind me showing up for a few minutes ... as long as i didn't overstay my welcome. i know the boundaries.

but i could hardly walk through those doors with dripping nose and weepy eyes. that would be a whole different story, right?

so, why the tears?

i could have blamed it on the cold, october wind -- this is minnesota after all. but if i'm honest, it was just that kind of day. a day full of unexpected emotion. so much had crossed my path in the past 12 hours -- from the very beautiful to the very hard.

so much to rejoice in. these kids inside this barn dancing --- whooping and hollering in the unfettered delight of good fun.

and my 16 year old son, tyler, who had passed his driver's test only a few hours earlier. a milestone. another opportunity to rejoice. something basic, but big. this boy who is so careful to do everything correctly in the car right now. i sat next to him and we drove home with that piece of paper tucked away in his wallet. the pride spilling and untucked. my son, who, as a toddler, always wanted me to hold him ... now driving me home. checking his mirrors. signaling his turns.

it wasn't just his milestone -- but felt a bit like mine, as well.

you know the joy of watching a child achieve -- a first step. a small trophy. a big fish. a home run. a driver's license.

this stuff. these barn dances and these milestones. homework at the kitchen table and pizza delivered for dinner and a tiny girl in her pink ballet leotard spinning and the dog barking and the washing machine swishing and orange leaves falling ... all of it good. ordinary. beautiful. gifts.

if i let myself stand outside and take it in from a distance, it does cause my heart to skip, to swell, to beat -- to gasp in gratitude. to give thanks. and sometimes, yes, to weep.

especially on a day like this where i had the opportunity to hear about harder lives. hard living.

earlier -- before the barn dance and the license appointment and the ballet class and the pizza delivery -- i attended a women's luncheon and heard stories of other teens. teens who have different kinds of lives. teens who don't have a whole lot of foot stompin joy. kids who might not have a mom or dad to encourage them on a test. kids who maybe haven't ever had the pride of a milestone met.

this luncheon was in support of the ministry, treehouse, which is dedicated to caring for at risk kids. kids who don't have much of a home or even much hope. treehouse cares for kids who have nowhere to turn.

the kids at treehouse come from abuse or neglect or all types of bad stuff. kids who turn to drugs, sex, violence. kids who never had a chance to be kids.

and i'm outside this barn on a cold, minnesota night overwhelmed with the mixing of country music and easy laughter. because standing there listening i am still hearing the video that played at today's luncheon. i'm thinking about the faces and the stories of kids who don't know what it feels like to dance with their friends in a warm, white barn on a thursday night in october.

and my heart breaks.

my heart breaks for the kids we pass every day of our lives. dozens. hundreds. kids who are broken and hurting. lonely and lost. kids who are cutting. drinking. running. kids who believe they have nothing to give. kids who are one step away from giving up altogether.

kids who are hurting themselves or hurting others.

kids who are just hurting.

this morning, tyler woke up with the anticipation of his driver's license.
this morning, one of tyler's classmates lost her mom to cancer.

tonight there was a barn dance.

and what played in my mind standing outside that barn was this:
      ---------- not everyone dances.

 not everyone in our world dances. and that's where those tears came from.

this sweet, 10th grade girl whose mama is now gone. she's not dancing tonight.

these desperate kids who have suffered all types of hurt. they aren't dancing tonight.

sometimes in our whooping and hollering we forget that not everyone's attending the dance.

tomorrow, the entire high school will go out and work in different service projects across the city of minneapolis. they will rub shoulders and shake hands with broken people. people who don't dance.

it will be amazing. the students will come back with stories. they will come back zealous and on fire to help others ... to reach out ... to do good ... to make a difference.

but first they (we) (i) must remember: not everyone dances.

there's so much pain in this world. i don't get it. i don't understand why my two teens get to be inside that barn dancing tonight and why other teens are on the outside hurting. i don't get that. i don't know how to make sense of it all.

but i do want to remember that when i get a glimpse of this goodness ... it can never be taken for granted. it's nothing i deserve. nothing i've earned. nothing i was owed.

it's grace.

the fact that my kids can dance or drive or anything ... is grace.  all grace. only grace.

this sweet girl who lost her mom to cancer today. that could have been us. when i got my cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago ... we didn't know. why was i given the chance to sneak into a barn and photograph my kids dancing tonight?  why was this woman taken from her family today?

why are some teens dancing and other teens desperate?

these aren't questions i can answer quickly ... but i still think they need to be asked. even when the answers aren't easy.

even if the tears are awkward and untimely ... we need them.

we need to remember not everyone's in the barn. not everyone's laughing along with us. it's easy to forget that sometimes, isn't it? in fact, we don't always want to think about it. it's much nicer to pretend we're all having a good time. i get it. i'm like that too.

and then God breaks my heart and reminds me.

standing outside a white barn in minnesota,  He makes me remember.

all is grace.

only grace.


“and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  ~ john 1:16

1 comment:

Laura Murphy said...

Oh thank you for this beautiful post Jodi! I can't add anything to my sidebar, blogspot won't let me, but I'll check in often. I wrote about the luncheon too, very differently, but it made an impact on me as well. Blessings on you.